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Five Warning Signs Your Teen may be in Trouble:


Shawna Crabill, Marriage Therapist, Family Therapist, Individual Therapist, Couple Therapist, Therapist

Usually the very first call I get from a parent is “I don’t know what is going on with my child but something has definitely changed.” Does this sound like you? Although some change is normal in adolescence, there are a few warning signs you should not ignore. These are just a few indications that it is time to contact a professional for a diagnosis. It is important to take these symptoms seriously and not just brush them aside as “normal” teenage behavior.

Here are five signs that your teen may be in trouble:

  1. Are there changes in their appetite or weight, and changes in their sleep patterns? Have they suddenly stopped eating as much as usual or are eating excessively? Are they sleeping too much or too little? These can all be signs that they may have an eating disorder, depression, or they may be experimenting with drugs.

  2. Are they withdrawing from family and friends? Obviously, a little bit of withdrawal from your teen is normal. But if they are suddenly spending more time away from home or alone in their room, this may an indicator of drug use or depression.

  3. Are their grades suddenly slipping? A sudden drop in grades can signal something else. Don’t ignore this. I have counseled teens whose grades suddenly began slipping because they began using drugs. Some have even had a learning disability, or ADHD, that has gone undiagnosed until now.

  4. Have they lost interest in activities they used to enjoy, or school? Have they suddenly begun skipping school? Or are they withdrawing from activities and sports they once enjoyed? This can sometimes be a tell-tale sign that they are using drugs, depression, or there could be bullying going on at school.

  5. Do they have a loss of energy, or frequent complaints of physical pain? Try to find out what it going on with your teen. Are drugs the cause? Do you think they may be experiencing depression? Ask them questions to find out the underlying issues.

So what should you do at home? If you want to try and talk to your teen yourself and see if you can break through with them on your own, here are my three favorite questions you can ask them. This will open up a conversation with them. First, try asking, “I am concerned about you. Could you tell me a little more about what’s going on?” This should help your teen feel not threatened and open to communicating with you. Second, you can ask, “Can you tell me what you are feeling?” This should help them to not feel judged. If they do tell you what they are feeling, try and repeat back to them what you heard them say. For example, “So I think I’m hearing you say you are feeling frustrated right now.” Do not give your opinion! Try and listen only! And third, you can ask them, “Can I help you in any way?” This should help them feel like they are not alone. Try to convey to them that whatever it is they are going through, it is okay, you are going to be there to help. You want them to feel like you are on their team!

If you still cannot seem to break through, and your child seems depressed and/or withdrawn, then perhaps it is time to seek the advice of a professional. (Please keep in mind, frequently parents may mistake irritability in their teen as something else, when it can sometimes be a clear indicator of depression.) If you have ever been to therapy then you already know that sometimes it is easier to speak to someone on the outside rather than someone you are close to personally. There is no threat of being judged and it is confidential. This is why my clients feel safe coming and talking to me every week.

Feel free to contact Shawna Crabill, LMFT, of Charleston, SC, today. She is here to help. She has counseled numerous teenagers and helped them work through what seemed to be a hopeless situation. If you as a parent know that something isn’t right with your child, or they just aren’t being themselves, then trust your instinct. Parenting is an incredibly difficult job, so don’t be afraid to ask for help! This is the first step in the healing process.